Protest

Protesters denounce judge’s acquittal of Halifax taxi driver

‘I don’t think this is going to stop until things change’

A crowd gathered at Grand Parade to protest the court decision.   Anna Cormier

Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday afternoon to protest Judge Gregory Lenehan acquittal of Bassam Al-Rawi, a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger.

The protest was organized shortly after the court decision was released last Wednesday. Many were outraged at Lenehan’s choice of words: “clearly a drunk can consent.”

A police officer discovered the woman partially clothed and unconscious in the back of the taxi in May 2015. The victim’s DNA was on Al-Rawi’s upper lip.

The protest

Protesters gathered at Grand Parade at 3 p.m. Attendees addressed the crowd with poems, speeches and songs before marching to the former Spring Garden Road Memorial Library — right in front of Halifax Provincial Court, where Al-Rawi’s trial was held.

The news that Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service will be appealing the sexual assault acquittal came just prior to the protest.

One of the organizers, Amanda Dodsworth, posted on the Facebook event to say the rally would still take place.

This news allows for us to have a slightly more hopeful tone today, but please don’t lose sight of the larger picture,” wrote Dodsworth. “There are still concerns about Judge Lenehan and his ability to subjectively handle cases with any sort of sexual crime. Voicing our concerns over this is still necessary.”

‘What do we want? JUSTICE!

Rachel Doucet, 31, said it was important to attend the rally with her child and partner to “show solidarity with all the men, women, children and trans people who have been affected by sexual assault.”

Rachel Doucet attended the protest with her whole family.   Anna Cormier

“The laws need to change in order for us to move forward as a society,” said Doucet.

She felt there was ample evidence to show that what happened with the female passenger was not consensual.

“I wanted to show my support,” said Savannah Greene, 19.  “Mostly for the victim, but also to tell the judge that his ruling was not OK, and that there should be repercussions for his actions.”

Savannah Greene (right) says there should be repercussions for Lenehan’s actions.   Anna Cormier

Many protesters stressed that people need to understand what consent means, and that the rally was a protest against Lenehan continuing as a judge.

Luke Chiasson, 23, said he attended the protest because he wanted to be with people who didn’t agree with the ruling.

“As a man, I feel like it’s important to hold that space for women in order for them to speak about whatever they need to speak about without judging,” said Chiasson.

Luke Chiasson (left) and Rachel LeBlanc (right) protest by Halifax Provincial Court.   Anna Cormier

Rachel LeBlanc, 24, attended for personal reasons.

“I deserve to be respected,” said LeBlanc. “Every human deserves to be respected whether it has to do with their body, or any of their human rights; they need to be supported by our community. I don’t think this is going to stop until things change.”

Some protesters brought their dogs to the rally.   Anna Cormier

Another protest is planned for Wednesday, which is also International Women’s Day.